AN INTRIGUED national press and enraptured Celtic followers waited for first sight of the mysterious Rafael Scheidt. They waited. And they waited.
While there was a delay on the debut of a player, who looked a trifle overweight to most observers, there was a fascinating little squabble going on in the background.
The club’s image-makers believed the name ‘Rafael’ would be more appropriate emblazoned on the back of the jersey rather than the unfortunate surname that had lost something in translation on its voyage from Gremio to the Gallowgate.
The player was okay with the suggestion, but his father was not quite so accommodating to the moniker change. Obviously, he was proud of the family’s Scheidt heritage.
As his big unveiling neared, the unfortunate player was struck down with appendicitis. The world, and its bated breath, would have to be patient.
TAKING A BREATHER…Rafael Scheidt looks out of puff during a rare appearance.
One man who would never view Scheidt’s baptism in green and white would be manager John Barnes who was invited to leave the premises after Inverness Caley Thistle had thoughtlessly knocked the Glasgow giants out of the Scottish Cup 3-1 on February 8 2000 in Glasgow in one of the most preposterous scorelines in football.
The rookie gaffer received his P45 forty-eight hours later and was last seen on satellite TV sports shows giving viewers the impression he had just swallowed a fully-inflated beach ball.
On March 1 2000, Scheidt – or Rafael, as the shirt manufacturers would have you believe – was introduced as a fifty-sixth minute substitute for Stephane Mahe in a 6-2 league win over Hibs at Parkhead. He went largely unnoticed.
Ten days later, he made his first start in a 4-1 victory over St Johnstone, again in Glasgow. He was blamed in some quarters for being too lackadaisical at the Perth team’s goal and did not reappear after the interval.
He was replaced by Olivier Tebily who had earned the nickname of ‘Bomb Scare’ from the learned Hoops faithful.
GREEN FOR GO…Rafael Scheidt in race for the ball.
Asked about the non-appearance of the very expensive import after the break, a Celtic spokesman answered: ‘He sustained a thigh injury and it was thought it would be too much of a risk to send him out for the second-half.’ There is no record of the official’s nose growing at a furious rate at that precise moment
On the Saturday afternoon of March 19, there was no sign of the name Rafael on the back of any of the Celtic shirts that were laid out for the League Cup Final against Aberdeen at Hampden.
Goals from Tommy Johnson and Vidar Riseth gave Kenny Dalglish his solitary piece of silverware during his brief stint as caretaker manager of the club. He would be on his way at the end of the season with Martin O’Neill taking over dug-out duties.
The Irishman had pretty much made up his mind about the attributes of the bungling Brazilian after only a few minutes of seeing him in action in a pre-season warm-up game in Ireland, a 3-2 win over Bray Wanderers.
The central defender, with time and space, elected to shell a ball down the left wing and, in doing so, almost decapitated the new Celtic boss who had to swiftly duck as the hurtling spherical object sizzled over his head and created alarm among the unsuspecting supporters lounging around in the vicinity of the technical area.
O’Neill was moved to tell the careless and well-paid performer afterwards: ‘I like players who are not like you. I like players who play well.’
* TOMORROW: Don’t miss The Curious Case of Rafael Scheidt (Part Three)